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When a new user posts their first question, there is often a need to clarify certain aspects of how this site works. This is usually done by a friendly comment starting with "Welcome to the site" or something similar followed by an explanation such as in this question. I always thought these were always done by moderators or some very experienced users.

However, there is a list on meta of frequent comments that includes a welcoming message but I could not find guidelines on who should be doing this. Does this mean anyone can/should be doing this sort of thing?

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You should welcome new users!

Going from lurker to user is an enormous risk that the community should recognize. It's easy to overlook that someone has taken that risk and, instead, focus on what the user's done wrong in the question or answer. So, if a user hasn't already been welcomed to the site, welcome that new user before jumping in to critique the user's answer or question! There's no privilege associated with welcoming a new user, and the more current users that are nice and welcoming to a new user, the better the site will get.

How I do it

I try to do this often, and I try to make the experience positive. I tend to use a welcome message on a question that's like this:

Welcome to the site! Take the [tour]! [Then insert your own version of Good question or This question could be improved by…, or The site doesn't handle this kind of question or whatever, omitting brackets.] Thank you for participating and have fun.

(I read a study that exclamation points in text messages make the writer sound more sincere, so I end the first sentence with one. Also, putting [tour] in brackets in a comment automatically links to the site's tour page. Finally, to avoid an accusatory tone, I try not to use the word you in the bracketed portion at all, instead aiming for This question could be better were it edited to include… or something.)

And my welcome message on an answer tends to look like this:

Welcome to the site! Take the [tour]! [Then insert your own version of Good answer or This answer could be improved by…, or Unfortunately, this isn't really an answer to the question because… or whatever, omitting brackets.] Thank you for participating and for helping [or trying to help if the answer wasn't appropriate, again omitting brackets] strangers.

(See above.) I view each welcome message's last sentence as really important in recognizing the user's transition from just looking around to putting words on the Internet for all to read. However, there's no set format, and if come up with your own welcoming message, that's totally okay.

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Yes, anyone can and should do this. Go for it. (Well, anyone with 50+ rep.)

In general here if you have the rep to do something, you are welcome to do it as much as anyone else is (of course, congruent with our site guidelines).

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Is there a difference between norms and guidelines? Should there be? \$\endgroup\$ – fectin - free Monica Apr 28 '17 at 20:48
  • \$\begingroup\$ No and no. The more complicated we try to make things the less people can follow. \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk says reinstate Monica Apr 28 '17 at 21:17
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Everyone Anyone!

Yes, anyone can make a comment welcoming a new user. We don't want to help-pile, so it's better not to have a half-dozen welcoming comments flooding the new(ish) user's inbox where one or two would suffice.

If the question is in need of some work, the "format" I tend to follow (and followed in that message) is the following:

Welcome!

[When you get a chance, check out the tour/help center.]

Single out the largest problem or two I see with the question.

Offer action-item or resource.

Then wait.

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Yeah, anyone can do it. Including you! No pressure though. It was started by an experienced user (BESW), I think, but it's just a community practice we've adopted together.

Normally I leave it on a new user's first post, welcome them, point then to the tour or acknowledge that they have the Informed badge indicating they've already read it (and thank them for doing so), give constructive advice on their post, and point them to the chat. We can use the [tour] and [chat] magic comment links for these.

It tends to also help when we're giving constructive criticism. The comment suddenly sounds sort of official and supportive rather than, say, an arbitrary angry user on the internet telling someone they did something wrong.

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